Washington State talks about more controls on growth
A backlash against the pro-growth forces is beginning to brew here as a population explosion in Washington State spreads toward undeveloped land. As a result, the Washington Environmental Council is laying the groundwork for a state initiative to limit growth. Limited natural resources can't stand the heavy growth pressure, according to a leader of the council.Skip to next paragraph
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Development foes have ousted a majority of the Issaquah City Council, dubbing last November's election the "Issaquah massacre." And Chris Himes, a growth-management advocate, reorganized Redmond City Hall when she won the mayor's job. Both cities are in Seattle's backyard.
Nearby, in Bellevue, the state's fourth largest city, Maria Cain was elected to a city council seat, although she probably won't get a lid on high-rises.
A limit on growth is an issue in Ginni Steven's race for the Snohomish County Council. Snohomish is a neighbor of Seattle.
"I boycott busy freeways and the new shopping center," asserts Ms. Stevens, expressing the crusading spirit characteristic of players in this state's property-development controversy.
Crusaders themselves have clashed.
When King County's "county group" attempted to muster political strength in recent council races, developers almost exterminated these citizen proponents of "graceful growth."
Then, the government move to exert more controls to cope with growth ignited a backlash.
After reducing minimum lot sizes, King County promoted growth management as a way of braking sprawl. The county, home of Seattle, wants to develop sites and lots in existing centers, thus discouraging growth in semideveloped areas. Community plans and scattered moratoriums have locked the door against traditional development.
"Bureaucracies and arrogance hold our land in hostage," asserts Bill Boeing, son of the Boeing Company founder.
"We'll work for protection of private-property rights," he vows. Mr. Boeing helped finance the new Property Owners of Washington with a contribution of $10, 000.
Mr. Boeing's group joined a statewide federation to combat "overregulation" and what members perceive to be usurpation of landowner's rights. One ally is the Western Environmental Trade Association, long at odds with environmentalists.
Meanwhile, the Seattle-King County Board of Realtors has organized a voter-registration drive of some 3,000 members at its annual meeting. The 1980 president-elect, David Page, proclaimed a new era of political activism.
Powerhouses such as the Seattle Master Builders and Trades Councils (of Seattle and the State of Washington) continue to take decisive roles. Snohomish and King County units of the group defeated a Snohomish County regulation to levy fees against builders for schools, roads, and fire protection. Undaunted, Snohomish officials seek to nullify the builders' court victory.
Snohomish is symptomatic, however, of a trend toward fees, now under consideration by several jurisdictions.
"The $64 question is: How much should they charge?" says Seattle lawyer Jerry Hillis, who generally represents the developers.
Fees pinch the pockets of developers who, in turn, argue that they harm the consumer as well. Moreover, the developers contend that regulation creates an artificial market in which the narrowing of the supply of new housing drives up costs, thus hurting the elderly and newly married.
"It's your children and grandchildren who'll need housing," they argue.